For me, like many Americans, Memorial Day was just another long weekend. The holiday marked the beginning of summer with cooking out with friends and family, good sales, and a break from work.
But on May 21st, 2007, Memorial Day would be redefined. I woke up to the morning like any other, to the "ding ding" of the instant messenger letting me know my husband was online. He had been in Iraq for nearly 8 months at that point, and these were the daily moments we relished; where we could see each other’s faces over our computer screens, talk about mundane things, like what had happened on Grey's Anatomy, until, abruptly, he had to get off. I knew that it meant he was being called out on a mission, a silent understanding we shared across the world. I told him I loved him more than life itself and went on with my day. An hour and a half later, a man in a field detonated over two thousand pounds of explosives underneath his vehicle, killing him and two other fine service members. Ten hours later I came home to two men who would shatter my world by telling me my soul mate and best friend would be returning home in a flag covered casket.
That evening, at 11:30pm, May 21st, 2007, Memorial Day became every day.
Michael was a gorgeous man inside and out. He was a geek that loved Star Trek and PBS. He loved his soldiers, dog, and family. A perfect night would consist of a good foreign film and greasy Chinese food. He always saw the best in people and made me want to nothing other than to make him proud. After getting out of the Army, Michael had aspirations of finishing his engineering degree and having children. Michael was a simple man who could eat steak and peas for the rest of his life, who had a gap in his smile that added a warm quirkiness to his spirit. He loved with all of his heart and gave it out to all who knew him.
There are many (nearly 6,000) like him and it is their memory, it is the one thing that didn't die with them that day; it is their legacy and what we want the world to remember them by. That is what Memorial Day is for military widows.
We don't want you to remember them just by the uniform they wore or the number of casualties you see on the five o'clock news...But the men and women like you; following their passions, loving the people in their life, enjoying a cold beer on a hot summer day.
So this Monday, if you find a free moment, visit www.americanwidowproject.org and read a military widow's story. Read about their hero's lives, their struggles, and survival...read about their memories and embody what, for us, Memorial Day is all about.
Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored. ~Daniel Webster